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Why Mike Pence won’t be president

Why Mike Pence won’t be president

Throughout the first year of the administration, as President Trump veered from one crisis of his own invention to another while fending off fast-moving investigations, people talked about Mike Pence as the guy more likely than any of his recent predecessors to wake up one morning and find himself president of the United States.

Now, with Trump nearing the halfway mark, with the investigations plodding along and the country acclimated to daily chaos, people talk about Pence as the guy in Washington who most desperately wants to be president, and who would say just about any noxious thing to set himself up as Trump’s natural successor.

In a much-discussed Washington Post column last week, the venerable conservative George Will proclaimed Pence the single worst person in government for publicly deifying Trump at Cabinet meetings and for sucking up to Trump supporters like the infamous Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona.

“Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic,” Will wrote. “Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.”

Then, a few days later, a team of reporters at the New York Times weighed in with a detailed account of how Pence is subtly supplanting Trump, even as he exalts the president, by taking control of the party’s midterm strategy and establishing his own power base in the states.

But if it’s true that Pence is scheming and charming his way into prime position, like some slow-eyed version of Frank Underwood, then he’s probably wasting whatever talent he has, playing chess on a checkerboard. Because history and common sense would tell you that this is probably as close as Pence is getting to the presidency — or at least if the voters have anything to say about it.

There’s no question that Pence is building his own political operation, separate from Trump’s. Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, is one of the party’s sharpest young strategists, having once worked closely with Haley Barbour and Jeb Bush to elect a bevy of Republican governors.

Recently, as you may have read, Pence also tried to hire Jon Lerner, an aide to U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, as his foreign policy adviser. (Trump nixed the idea, because Lerner had been a “never Trumper” during the campaign.)

Lerner is a pollster by trade, and a good one, who used to do focus groups for House Republicans. If you think Pence wanted him around for his advice on North Korea, then you probably think Jared Kushner has a unique grasp of the Middle East.

No, Pence is definitely positioning himself for an opening, which is exactly why he goes off at Cabinet meetings about how blessed he is just to breathe the same air as Trump. He says those things because the only way he can privately maneuver to consolidate power is to publicly venerate the boss at the same time.

This is politics 101. A guy like Ayers can do that math in his sleep.

Except here’s the problem for Pence: Close as he is to the presidency, his chances of ever getting the jobfall somewhere between remote and imaginary.</p>
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